Monday, January 28, 2013

Can the post crisis European vision emerge from the south?

Paulina Lampsa
PES Presidency Member

Countries of Southern Europe are experiencing the harshest consequences of the economic crisis, consequences that create a fertile ground for the rise of populism and the extreme right. In this context, progressives are facing a number of important challenges if they want to remain relevant. It is becoming more and more clear that austerity only policies, will not lead to fiscal responsibility but will increase inequality, will suffocate the market and small and medium enterprises, will shrink the middle class and eventually risk to widen black economy and tax evasion. Our societies after the crisis will be very different and citizens will expect very concrete and imaginative strategies to redress social injustice, to reduce unemployment, to create jobs. They will also need a new vision for Europe that goes beyond statistics, Ecofin decisions and gloomy warnings. However, we should not wait the end of the crisis for trying to elaborate a different model leading to a new social pact. A model adapted to each country's different realities. A model that will be able to push necessary reforms that its difficult to implement in times of extreme austerity. What makes us different from the right is not only defined in how we view the economic and social agenda but also by the fact that we had a tradition to put emphasis in a number of other issues like environment, equal opportunities, human rights, fight against any form of discrimination. These issues that are not any more at the forefront of our discussions because of the crisis. But by putting them aside we give more space to extreme right populism. During the last years we were confronted with a european vision clearly not inspired from the founding thinkers of the Union. A vision that is more based in power balances than the common interest. When they called us PIGS we didn't realize the value of solidarity and concerted action. Could we act differently now? Now that we have experienced in practice what a real politik Europe means for each member state? Could a new vision for Europe emerge in the South? Lets start the debate, today in Athens tomorrow in another Southern European city. An interesting discussion on these issues will also take place early February in Lisbon, at the Council of the Socialist International. And lets keep in mind, that European elections are taking place next year. If we don't start thinking on an effective progressive strategy now, just imagine what the next European Parliament could look like! 

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